From: Curtis Johnson
To: Steve Hayes
Date: Oct 6 1997 5:49:24 am
Subject: Festivals
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-=> Quoting Steve Hayes to Curtis Johnson <=-

SH> somewhat contrived. Also the absence of any reference to the Arian
SH> controversy, which occupied the minds of Christians in the second and
SH> third quarters of the 4th century, and which seems to me a far more
SH> likely reason for Christians to begin celebrating the birth of Christ.

CJ> There's no reaction to Arianism that I can imagine offhand

CJ> in the celebration of Christmas.  The Arians were Arians, after
CJ> all, because they denied a divinity to Christ, whereas a celebration
CJ> of the birth could only underscore his humanity.  The denial of
CJ> divinity to Jesus seems to have been a theological position taken
CJ> by at least some from the first.

SH> I think the trick is to try to see it from the angle of a 4th-century
SH> Christian rather than from the point of view of a 19th-century
SH> folklorist. They had different concerns.

SH> those concerns was who and what Christ is. Those who opposed th Arians
SH> were not at all concerned to deny Christ's humanity. Rather they
SH> affirmed it. What they were concerned to affirm was that he was
SH> "begotten, not created". For the first three centuries Christians did
SH> not celebrate the birth of Christ as a separate event. In fact they
SH> were rather suspicious of celebrating birthdays. Arius promomoted his
SH> cause by composing little advertising jingles, which his followers
SH> sang. It is quite conceivable that his opponents began celebrating the
SH> nativity of Christ for similar reasons - to cock a snook at the
SH> Arians.
SH> That is another way of joining the dots. There is no more hard
SH> evidence for it than there is for the Mthraism or Saturnalia angles
SH> or at least no evidence that I've been able to discover. It's all a
SH> matter of setting one lot of guesses against another. You pays your
SH> money and you takes your choice.

The feast that would emphasize his divinity against the
Arians would be the Annunciation (to Mary).  Emphasizing his
fleshliness could hardly be an emphasis on his divinity.
The Conybeare entry on Epiphany, which you had not yet a
chance to see when you wrote the above, seems to make it rather
clear that the "heresy" playing a role in the creation of Christmas
was Adoptionism (to others, roughly that Jesus was not begotten of
the Spirit until his baptism by John the Baptist).
The Mithraism and Saturnalia angles come in with the choice
of date, and the traditions and celebrations coming in with that
holiday--one notable one, in the case of Mithraism, is the
homage of the shepherds.

CJ> It would be interesting to see if there were a correlation
CJ> between the growth of the Mary cultus and a holiday which only
CJ> served to increase her status.  Of course, here there might be
CJ> a chicken-and-egg question--and a probable influence from another
CJ> mystery cult, that of Isis, whose art had an Isis-holding-the-baby
CJ> -Horus motif.  (Note also that the women of Mithraists gravitated
CJ> largely toward the Isis mystery religion.)

SH> It is quite possible that at least the ikonography was influenced by
SH> that. But again, looking at the writings of contemporary Christians,
SH> their main concern was with the question of who and what Jesus is. The

From the contemporary accounts, the crowds seemed to react
to the winds of Trinitarian controversy as to whether it affected
the status of Mary.

SH> concern with the status of his mother was much more of a concern of
SH> 19th-century Protestant polemics. I have found that even today many
SH> Protestants are totally incapable of understanding the Orthodox view.
SH> They *persist* in distorting it, even when it is explained to them.

I saw that several times in R-RELIGION, and more than once

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